For a while, it looked as if the orderbook for cruise ships was drying up.

Until the recent orders from Royal Caribbean International (RCI) for its new class of 160,000-ton, 3,600-passenger Ultra Voyager ship to be built at Kvaerner Masa-Yards, and from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for two new 93,000 ton ships to be built at Meyer Werft, only Fincantieri had work after next summer.

"We are pushing the frontier," said Peter Ratcliffe, CEO, when asked about Princess Cruises' new ships. He said that building bigger ships was not an inevitable development, but suggested it may be the most likely course.

The bottom line, however, is to make sure that the ships maintain their intimacy and deliver a quality product, according to Ratcliffe, who also noted that the Grand-class ships receive the highest passenger satisfaction scores in the fleet.

The Queen Mary 2 is designed and built with the heavy seas of the North Atlantic in mind, said Jean-Jacques Gatepaille, naval architect for the QM2 at Chantiers de l'Atlantique.

The ship's structure has been reinforced compared to cruise ships, Gatepaille explained, adding that at the owner's request, the yard has calculated 40 years of service for the ship, compared to the normal 25 years for passenger vessels.

"She is a ship for the sea," said Stephen Payne, director of project management at Carnival Corporate Shipbuilding in London and the designer and senior naval architect for the QM2. He is also responsible for the site teams for Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Crociere, Cunard Line, and Holland America Line at five different yards.

"The QM2 is designed specifically to go transatlantic at speed any time of the year. She has the necessary reserve power to go through a storm or to divert and go around," Payne continued.

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